I’ve been wistfully daydreaming for the best part of a decade that one day I’d enjoy a long lunch, glass of wine in hand, in the lakeside restaurant Millbrook Winery. To be fair, I don’t have a particularly good reason why I hadn’t made the trip to Jarrahdale, other than it’s at the opposite end of Perth to where I live. It’s not on the moon or even as far as Margaret River. So when I discovered that lunch at Millbrook was part of my research into the Peel region and it’s produce for Buy West Eat Best’s Signature Dish Competition, I was over the moon.
I’d been following Millbrook’s Head Chef Guy Jeffreys on Instagram, so I had an idea that fresh produce was a very important feature on their menu. He’s worked at some well renowned WA restaurants in the past, including Leeuwin Estate and David Coomer’s celebrated Star Anise. Not only is he Head Chef, but their head gardener too! More on that immense vegetable garden later…
Much to his disappointment, Chef was working, so I took my parents along for lunch at Millbrook on a sunny autumn day. Walking through the grounds, the leaves on the trees and vines were shades of red, orange and brown. It’s the sort of spot which really changes with the seasons. I hear Millbrook is also stunning in spring when the blossom is on the trees and their wisteria is blooming!
First off, we enjoyed an introduction to Millbrook at the cellar door with a wine tasting. These get very popular on weekends and a light menu, of cheese platters and the like, is offered to enjoy along with their wines by the lake. Picnic baskets are also available, I can’t think of a prettier setting to thrown down a rug.
We tried some white and red varieties from Millbrook’s various vineyards around WA. As well as growing their own grapes on site, they require a cooler climate for other varieties, with drops from Margaret River, Pemberton and the Great Southern. My favourite of the wines I tried was the Millbrook Margaret River Vermentino, followed by their Shiraz blend.
The dining room is found upstairs, with panoramic views over the lake, jarrah forest, vineyards and manicured gardens. There’s a large stone fireplace on one wall, which must be wonderfully cosy on a chilly day in the Perth Hills.
The modern Australian menu changes regularly, depending on what is available from the garden. The food is filled with technique, imagination and passion. What you won’t find is overkill of fussy gels, soils and other Cheffyness – which is not needed when you have amazing fresh produce growing at your kitchen door. This is how good food should be, simple, exciting and delicious.
At the suggestion of our friendly waitress, we choose the 3 course choice for $75 per person, this also includes some sides. To start, we nibble on olives, warm bread and butter with a red wine salt. For entrée we share the kitchen’s choice, $42 for two people. This is a selection of dishes that’s made up from whatever is abundant in their garden each day. On this day it was three dishes – cured beef in lettuce cups with a fermented hot sauce mayo and tender squid with salsa and beans.
The real show stealer of the dishes was the bianco turnips, simply pulled from the veggie patch, washed and served with a creamy curds and whey and preserved lemon. We ate them root to leaf with our hands “bunny style” and absolutely relished the vibrant, fresh flavour. It says everything about Millbrook’s food philosophy – unfussy, flavoursome and fresh food. You don’t need to mess with food too much to create a memorable dish – it really starts and ends with outstanding local produce.
A entrée sized dish of pickles, charred octopus, chorizo and a safflower mayo ($23) was a perfect match for my glass of subtlety fruity Vermentino. If they don’t grow it themselves the Millbrook Chefs are on first name terms with their suppliers, like local pig farmer James Taylor, who they source their nitrate free chorizo from. It may not look pink like typical chorizo, but the greyish meat is packed with flavour. I’m glad it doesn’t come packed with preservatives and other nasties. The octopus is also delicious and it’s genuinely the most well cooked octopus I’ve ever had.
For main I bite the bullet and choose the Viognier braised rabbit risotto with bacon ($39). Having had pet bunnies as a child, I’ve struggled a bit with ordering rabbit dishes. With (a lot) of coaxing from Chef over the years, I recently plucked up the courage to give it a go and boy am I glad that I did. Generous morsels of Baldivis rabbit are laced throughout this creamy risotto, topped with shavings of parmesan. It’s a rustic, soul warming dish.
I have to admit, I was eying up the coffee rubbed brisket ($39), which sounded amazing. My Dad loved this dish and kindly let me try a bite, giving me serious food envy. The huge hunk of meat was cooked overnight making it moist and full of flavour. On the side was a mountain corn polenta (from corn grown in the garden), and a fresh snake bean salad. This dish was well paired with the Millbrook Estate Cabernets, which my parents agreed was a top drop of red.
My Mum chose the market fish of the day ($39), which was a Spangled Emperor from Broome. It was draped with the most enormous piece of broccolini. The stem was as thick as a tree trunk and easily the most flavoursome part of the vegetable. The moist fish was accompanied by a house made yogurt, Venezuelan Ají dulce chilli burnt butter and Manjimup roasted hazelnuts. These are a by-product of the truffle industry, as truffles are grown under hazelnut trees and another great example of reducing waste.
As well as all that, we enjoyed a generous side of potatoes and more garden fresh veg. To finish, my parents both enjoyed a light apple strudel ($16), with mascarpone parfait, shaved jujubes (an apple-like fruit) and a raisin syrup, made from grapes on the vineyard.
Scrumptious chocolate mousse cake ($16), with a white chocolate & ginger ice cream finished my lunch off perfectly. The candied macadamias were very moreish.
As well as having an abundance of rave-worthy wines to choose from, I really love how Millbrook offers some really interesting non-alcoholic drinks. I’m so bored of pre-mixed soft drinks and drinking water, after I’ve finished my glass of vino. Here there’s house made ginger spritzer, a Millbrook basil, cucumber & mint spritzer, Bannister Downs chocolate milk, Jarrahdale neccessiteas and more. I chose a refreshing seasonal fruit water kefir ($7) which on this day was made from figs.
After our long lunch, Head Chef Guy Jeffreys took us for a tour of his veggie patch, which really belies the size of it. It’s quite immense, and absolutely thriving in it’s unique micro climate in the valley. Guy grows his vegetables from seeds that have been saved from the previous year’s crop, cultivating them by the moon. You can’t get much more “paddock-to-plate” than that!
Each day after service the chefs tend to the garden. The rows of veg are teaming with varieties of plants I’ve never heard of and are rarely, if ever, seen in Australia. If you want unique produce to work with, clearly the way is to grow it yourself. At this time of year you’re likely to see broccoli, kohlrabi, fennel, beans, rainbow chard, mustard greens, turnips, carrots, lettuce and much more.
Here Guy hands us green leaves, one similar to a sour sorrel, the other has the most punchy mustard flavours. The flavours from fresh veg are simply unbeatable. I’m most impressed and very interested to hear the stories behind the unique heirloom vegetables. And as well as been mindful of local produce, Guy also is careful of waste. There’s a “no waste” lunch, a selection of perishable items, on the menu for Mondays.
Beyond the garden there’s also an orchard, olive grove and bee hives. There’s not much on the menu at Millbrook that isn’t grown here. We also got to say hi to the playful Lochie, Guy’s dog, who’s one lucky pooch getting to roam around this lovely part of the Perth Hills.
So after our tour, we stroll back up the gravel path to the winery, taking in that stunning building one more time. There’s so much to Millbrook. It’s more than just a pretty winery with a fancy restaurant. Their fresh produce philosophy means that you’ll have a unique dining experience each time you visit.
My lunch at Millbrook has in my all time top 5 meals, which includes Michelin starred spots in Europe. Do yourself a favour and don’t leave it as long as I did to book a table at Millbrook. It may well be the best lunch you’ve ever had!
Millbrook Winery’s restaurant is open for lunch Thursday to Monday.
Find out more on Millbrook here.
Thanks to Mandurah & Peel Tourism Organisation (MAPTO) we were guests of Millbrook Winery and enjoyed a heavy discount from our bill. Nothing is exaggerated or embellished. All words and opinions are my own.